YourFitnessDietitian

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Hydration & Why Your Pee Matters

It’s summertime up here in the northern hemisphere, guys. And pretty much anywhere in the US will get hot over the next few months. The number 1 easiest thing you can do to support your nutrition right now is to make sure you’re hydrated. This means enough fluid each day to support basic body functions, but then also enough to replace everything you lose through activity (this is more than just designated exercise) and heat-related losses.

I talk a lot about food and nutrients, because what you eat matters. But what you drink matters first. You’ve probably heard that a person can go many days or even weeks without food. But you’ll die within a few days without water. While that’s an extreme example, the fact is everything you do every day is affected by lack of hydration first. From cognitive function to athletic performance – a lack of adequate water intake will mess you up every single time. 

Water is an essential nutrient. You cannot survive without water.

Lesson 1:
You need 0.5oz of water per pound of body weight per day. More if you’re exercising or exerting yourself in any way. Things like milk, coffee, and tea contribute, but you really want to get the majority of that liquid in from plain water. 💦

Lesson 2:

Pay attention to your workouts and what you lose during exercise. It’s not enough to just drink the 0.5oz/lb/day, unless you aren’t doing anything physical that day. Did you go for a 2-mile walk? That cost you liquid. Did you lift for an hour at the gym? That cost you liquid. Did you run? That most certainly cost you liquid – even if you didn’t “feel” yourself sweat or you didn’t “feel” thirsty.

Did you know your body won’t signal thirst until you’re already dehydrated? This kicks in at 1% dehydration – in other words, after you need water. Drinking based on thirst is a lose-lose situation. You’re always behind, and your performance is always affected.

This doesn’t just apply to runners – this applies to any and all physical activity. If your body is moving, your heart rate is up, and you’re breathing harder, then you’re losing hydration (through sweat and through perspiration). Performance, recovery, and overall metabolism are directly impacted by your hydration status. 

The number 1 complaint I get from coaching clients about the hydration goals we set for them is that they have to pee too often, so they end up not drinking as much as they should to save trips to the bathroom. But when you think about all of the jobs water has in your body to keep it functioning, having to flush the pipes is a small price to pay.

Water is involved in pretty much everything your body needs to do. A disruption in hydration has immediate consequences to your body’s wellbeing and function.

So the important thing is to regularly evaluate your hydration status. While measuring your water intake is one way to go, daily shifts in needs are best met by checking your pee! Yes, your pee is a perfect indicator of your hydration status.

Your daily goal is to keep your pee light straw colored. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be peeing a lot. You should be peeing at least 6 times a day, ideally more. If you’re well-hydrated, it’s not uncommon to pee 10 times per day.

If your pee is dark straw colored or straight up yellow, drink more. If your pee is any unusual color like blue, green, pink, orange, or red, or if it’s foamy, always check with your doctor. (Some medications can cause changes in the color of your pee, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to this stuff!)

The tricky part about staying hydrated is acknowledging that you need to always stay one step ahead of it. Your body won’t let you know that you’re losing fluids until you’ve lost fluids! That’s the crux of all of that stuff water does in the body: it is continuously being used up.

Think of it like a bucket of water sitting outstide. The water will evaporate – it’s just a matter of time. If it’s cold and the sun isn’t out, it will take longer to evaporate than it would on a warm /hot day with the sun beaming down. But either way, water is being lost. That’s how your body works, too. You are using water continuously. You are just using it faster when you’re actively moving than when you’re just hanging out.

What about electrolytes? Electrolytes matter, 100%. Your body gets some of its electrolytes from the fluids you drink and most of them from fruits, vegetables, and other carbohydrate sources in your diet. (You can read more about electrolytes here.) If you’re actively working out and sweating a lot (distance running, HIIT workouts, cycling, etc), adding electrolytes to your water isn’t a bad idea. My favorite ones are nuun electrolytes because they aren’t overpowering in flavor. The last thing I want while running double-digit miles is something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There’s also a caffeinated version for some extra oomph. To decide whether extra caffeine is right for you, check out this post on caffeine and exercise.

So, are you drinking enough water every day? Let me know your biggest hydration obstacles!

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